Hear from Radio 1 DJ and Taverners XI star Greg James
We caught up with Radio 1 DJ Greg James after a busy season on and off the pitch in 2013 to talk all things cricket
You’re a huge cricket fan – how did you get into the sport when you were younger?
I never really got into cricket, it was like it was built in, which was mostly to do with my dad. The first show on radio I listened to was Test Match Special, but I’m not sure I realised what it was at the time; just lovely old men talking about pigeons and cakes – some things never change!
My first England match was the Test against Australia at Lord’s in 1993 – the first time Shane Warne came over – and I absolutely loved it.
I’ve played ever since – went on to captain my school team and I didn’t really do anything else. When I was 15 or 16 I wasn’t really that interested in girls; I was too busy mowing the grass on the pitch and hitting the nets in the back garden.
You host ‘Not Just Cricket’ on BBC 5Live along with Anderson and Swann. What’s it like having friends in the current squad and how do you think they’ll get on in the Ashes?
Yeah we did the show ahead of the winter series, which was great because England had a great run-up to the Ashes.
After doing the show with Swanny and Jimmy, we’ve got quite close over the past couple of years, which is brilliant. It’s very interesting for me. They’re lovely guys. They love their music so I got them along to the Reading festival and we share a love of Alan Partridge, so we all went to see the film this year. Some good team bonding was had on that one.
It’s going to be a great winter and England will win; there’s no reason why they shouldn’t I’m going for 3-1. The team are ready and they’ve got good momentum after the summer’s victory. It should be brilliant.
Who were your cricketing heroes when you were growing up?
I was obsessed with Brian Lara when he was breaking all the records in the 90’s. I just thought, ‘this is the coolest guy I’ve ever seen, anywhere, doing anything.’
Actually, I was in a restaurant a couple of months ago, it was a dimly lit place, and I looked pretty at the table across from me. I watched this guy sit down, he had a cap on and looked pretty cool, but when he took his hat off I did a double take. I whispered to my friend, ‘that’s Brian Lara!’ Brian Lara was literally sat right there and I just couldn’t concentrate for the rest of the night.
When he got up to go I went over to him, which I normally don’t ever do and said, “Brian, can II just say you’re an absolute legend, you’re the reason I loved cricket so much as a kid.” And he just went, “cool, thanks man” and walked off. That was it; it was amazing.
Who would you most like to face on the cricket pitch?
I’d love to face Shane Warne, just to see what it’s like, to say I’ve done it. He’s one of the players I was fascinated with, he was just worlds apart from everybody else and to face him would be incredible.
You bowled out England’s Jimmy Anderson on your first ball during a piece for BBC 5Live. Will anything beat that moment?
I don’t think so. There was a temptation just to retire after that! I just thought ‘it won’t get better than this, I know it won’t.’
Getting him out in the nets was a dream and he was absolutely gutted. I was so shocked that I let out a little feminine scream; it was just my gut reaction!
Click here to witness Greg's moment of magic.
How did you become involved with the Lord’s Taverners?
Well, it’s very iconic; everyone knows the Lord’s Taverners name. I thought you had to be an ex-pro to be involved, but then I was approached and it was great to hear from them.
One of the first things I took part in was a match in February, which was an experience because we played in the snow!
Playing with all these ex-players is something I never thought I’d do; it’s really daunting! To suddenly be on the same team as Clive Lloyd, Rob Key, Mark Ramprakash, Herschelle Gibbs and Scott Styris, you just think, ‘this is insane!’ To play for the Taverners is brilliant because it’s such a good charity; it’s well worth doing and it’s a great use of free time.
You played for the Lord’s Taverners XI over the summer – how did you get on?
I was very rusty, but to play at Lord’s is such a privilege. I was just thinking the whole time, ‘is this really happening?’
I’ve been unfortunate in the last two Taverners matches because I’ve dropped a few catches, which is really embarrassing because there’s commentary and it’s in front of a crowd. I dropped one off Angus Fraser and he gave me so much grief, and rightly so, but I got a couple of wickets and nearly got the winning run, so I more than made up for it – I think.
One of my personal highlights was smashing Neil Smith for six. The ball went flying and hut the groundsman’s house and some tiles exploded. That was a lot of fun (sorry Mr Groundsman!).
It’s always a really fun day; the crowds are great and it raises so much money, so it’s a privilege to be part of it.
What was the funniest moment from this summer’s Taverners XI match?
Probably Chris Tarrant fielding – standing on the boundary with a glass of red wine in one hand and trying desperately to field with the other. There was one moment where he went to kick the ball clear and ended up kicking it over the boundary; those moments were amazing. It was just a brilliant and bizarre day.